Bowery Ballroom; Tue 17
Wed Jul 11 2007
Photo: Tod Seelie
It’s no surprise to learn that Annie Clark, a.k.a. St. Vincent, was a member of the Polyphonic Spree and Sufjan Stevens’s band before going solo. Like those acts, she’s an ambitious, weird artist who favors adventurous songs with mature, whimsical arrangements involving plenty of brass. The 24-year-old Texan’s debut, Marry Me (Beggars Banquet), is the work of a determined iconoclast. While St. Vincent draws on fanciful cabaret, stately chamber music and wistful ’70s pop, she consistently tweaks her own trajectory, throwing odd twists into already angular compositions.
Onstage, St. Vincent’s mood is alternately intense and good-humored. Fair skin and dark, curly hair heighten her almost gothic seriousness, yet she engages audiences with friendly chatter. She’s comfortable performing her more sedate songs alone, but a large band realizes the complex selections from her challenging catalog. For instance, the epic war theme “Paris Is Burning” moves through a forlorn horn intro and a subdued lounge beat, before finally morphing into a manic waltz. “Come right here and sleep,” goes the first verse, “while I slip poison in your ear.” Not every St. Vincent song is so devious in nature; “All My Stars Aligned” is like a New Age piano ballad. Somehow, though, with her muted, dovelike voice and quirky manner, she makes even the straight-ahead numbers sound strange.